May 04, 2012

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Land Disputes Progress Disrupted

The chairman of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Land Dispute Resolution Commission has for the third time been thwarted in his attempt to hold hearing over land disputes as a result of the refusal of certain communities in the region to participate.

Below is an article published by the Kapaeeng Foundation:

On 2-3 May 2012 the third attempt to start illegal and one-sided hearing of land disputes by chairman of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission has again been failed due quorum crisis as members of the Land Commission from indigenous Jumma communities remained absent.

Earlier chairman of the Commission retired justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury tried to start hearing on 28-29 March 2012 and 1-2 April 2012, but failed due to quorum crisis. It is worth mentioning that the CHT Accord Implementation Committee in its 3rd meeting held in Khagrachari on 26 December 2010 postponed all activities of Land Commission including hearing of land dispute cases until and unless amendment of provisions of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 contradictory to the CHT Accord is made.

However, violating this decision, chairman of the Commission has been trying to hold hearing of land disputes. After failing third attempt, he briefed local journalists in Khagrachari on 3 May 2012 and said in this briefing that he would go for ‘special measures’ to resolve the cases filed with it. He also added that law would take its own course. If there is a quorum crisis, the Commission Act has its resolution. He will be resolving the cases filed with the Commission through special measures laid out in the Act. He cannot sit idle, he opined.

However, the CHT people expressed sharp reaction against his comments. President of Khagrachari Headmen District Association Mr. Shakti Pada Tripura said that the starting of hearing of land dispute cases is illegal and ill-motivated and so it would create difficulties in the CHT and also hinder toward amendment of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001. He demanded to stop this one-sided and ill-motivated hearing of land dispute cases by the chairman of Land Commission. Otherwise, chairman of the Land Commission will be responsible for any unwanted situation in the CHT, he said.

It is mentionable that after assuming state power, the grand alliance government appointed retired Justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury as the chairman of the Land Commission in July 2009. After assuming in the office, Mr. Chowdhury started in a dramatic fashion. He undertook a lightning tour of the three hill districts soon after assuming in the office and convened meetings in three hill districts for exchange of views. He used the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) of the three hill district to issue letter calling upon the members to attend such opinion-sharing meeting which was totally irregular, as DCs are nobody of the Commission. The Land Commission Act provides that the secretary of the Commission shall convene the Land Commission meeting.

Secondly without convening any formal meeting of the Commission, the chairman unilaterally declared to conduct land survey in the CHT, though CHT Accord stipulates to conduct land survey in the CHT after completing the rehabilitation works and resolution of land diputes. Despite the huge protest from the all sections of the citizens including CHTRC and PCJSS and also three circle chiefs, the Chairman of the Commission continues his unilateral and controversial activities. In mid-July 2010 the secretary of Land Commission issued a notice to the CHT Affairs Ministry and Land Ministry to conduct cadastral survey in CHT soon; otherwise the ministries would be charged non-compliance with court order.

Even without decision of the Land Commission, Khademul Islam Chowdhury one-sidedly declared to start hearing to settle land disputes. He took up programme, in spite of protests by CHT people and civil society, to inaugurate hearing on cases of land disputes in Khagrachari on 27 December 2010. In a meeting held on 26 December 2010 in Khagrachari circuit house, CHT Accord Implementation Committee announced postponement of hearing on cases of land disputes at Khagrachari.